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For a movie with an expletive in the title, Bucky F*cking Dent it certainly shows a sentimental streak.
In David Duchovny’s film based on his well-received 2016 novel, a dying, diehard Red Sox fan is comforted by his son and his friends who make up stories about imaginary victories — and even periodically use a garden hose and sound effects that they replicate a thunderstorm to make him think that certain games have rained. It’s like a modern take on O. Henry’s classic story “The Last Leaf.”
Bucky F*cking Dent
Pretty fucking good.
Place: Tribeca Film Festival (fiction spotlight)
Launch: Logan Marshall-Green, David Duchovny, Stephanie Beatriz, Jason Beghe, Evan Handler, Santo Fazio, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Pamela Adlon
Director-writer: David Duchovny
1 hour and 45 minutes
Luckily, the film, which receives its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, also features enough caustic and irreverent humor to make its more saccharine aspects more palatable. It marks Duchovny’s first directorial feature since 2004 House of dprovides an excellent showcase for the actor’s particular brand of deadpan comedy as the cranky, wisecracking kind of boy who feigns his last breath and, when his son leans over to hear his last words, utters “Rosebud.” before exploding in roaring laughter.
After a 1956-set prologue that establishes the Red Sox fanaticism and the chain-smoking ways of Marty (Duchovny), an advertising copywriter, the action shifts to 1978, when his estranged, adult son Teddy (Logan Marshall-Green) works as a peanut salesman at Yankee Stadium. Teddy is really a failed novelist; when his beleaguered agent (Pamela Adlon, in an amusing cameo) tells him that his novels need something resembling a plot, he responds by telling her that he considers plots “a dead bourgeois convention of the 19th century.”
After Teddy receives a terrible phone call from Mariana (a glamorous Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine Nine), a grief counselor nurse who informs him that Marty is suffering from terminal cancer, Teddy is reunited with his widowed father and even decides to move into his suburban home to help him through his final days. The resulting awkward reconciliation between the two men forms the heart of the film, with the addition of a subplot involving Teddy’s burgeoning romance with Mariana.
Duchovny, who also produced and wrote the script, provides plenty of opportunity for funny banter between Marty and Teddy, the latter of which never quite got to grow. Much of the dialogue is hilariously ribald, especially in a locker room scene where the two naked men share a tender family hug after comparing penises. Teddy also comes to appreciate his father’s literary talents after discovering an unpublished novel that actually turns out to be a thinly disguised diary in which he reveals his longtime love for another woman.
This leads to one of the film’s least successful plot elements, in which Teddy and Mariana find their lost love, Eva (Daphne Rubin-Vega), and arrange a tender reunion. What might have worked on the page here feels rushed and unconvincing, especially when Marty and Eva pretend to have vigorous sex behind closed doors while a horrified Teddy eavesdrops. Equally unfunny are the hijackings of Marty’s barbershop friends (Evan Handler, Jason Beghe, Santo Fazio), who not-so-convincingly conspire with Teddy to make his father think the Red Sox are doing better than them.
It all leads up to, what else, a road trip, as father and son head to Boston for a Yankees-Sox playoff game with the home run that inspires the provocative film’s title. Again, Duchovny struggles with the film’s tone, providing his character with a tearful climactic confession that comes across as more saccharine than revealing.
Overall, Bucky F*cking Dent it works better as a black comedy than a drama, with Duchovny and Marshall-Green (who seems a little too old for his character, though it works in this case) trading funny lines and insults like a seasoned vaudeville comedy team. When Marty revealed his funny secret about why his longtime Red Sox fandom, you learned to fully appreciate his hard-earned temper.